I have come to realise that my self image has been messed up probably all my life. O.k. maybe not all my life, but definitely since I was about 13. So what is that...almost 34 years?!
I remember like it was yesterday a well meaning Aunt telling me that I would need to watch my weight, because all the women in our family were heavy. She said that I didn’t need to worry too much yet, but I needed to be careful. I think I was 13 at the time. I remember thinking for the first time on that day about how I looked. Was I already fat? Is that why she was telling me this? Was it my destiny to be fat? (incidentally I wasn't fat, not at all, I was a healthy, very active fit kid.)
My Mom had been dieting all my life. I remember her constantly making comments about her weight, about what she could and couldn’t eat, and just generally about how she wasn’t pleased with her body. When my Mom and her sisters would get together, weight, weight loss and food were common topics of conversation. How they were all too heavy, what they could do about it, and what they had done recently and what type of success they had. Let me just say that as I was growing up I always saw my Mom as overweight. I didn’t think she was fat, and I didn’t think that she was unhealthy, but because she always talked about it, I believed it. It wasn’t until years later when I was looking back at pictures of her that I was shocked to see in black and white, and color what size she actually was. When I was a young girl she actually wasn’t fat at all, but very ‘normal’ and she looked great! Like so many of us, her thinking became a self fulfilling prophesy, and she did get to be really overweight as the years went on. Because she had an unrealistic body image, I think I got one for myself as well. Let me be clear that I am not blaming my Mom for the ideas that she passed on to me. She was, and is, a great Mom and she was doing what she knew.
When I look back at pictures of myself from different stages of my life I see that there were really very few times in my life where the actual image in the photograph matched how I thought I looked. There were lots of times when I thought I was much bigger than I actually was. But, interestingly, there were also times when I thought I was smaller than the pictures showed I was.
So how do I get the image in my head to match what is reflected in the picture? Maybe what I need to do is actually take more pictures of myself, or maybe what I need to do is to say to hell with the pictures and think about how well I have been living? What my overall health is? How I feel? And how happy I am? Obviously I am constantly aware of the things I say and do and how they could be effecting my child. I am going to break the cycle of poor self image passed from one generation to the next.
Does your mental image match the image that is reflected in pictures? How do you feel about the difference, if there is one. Also, are you sending messages to your kids with your comments and actions without really thinking about the fact that it may not serve them well now and in the future?